*Originally published in Documento

The “Aigaion Pelagos” lifeguard boat was in the area, but was not included in the rescue operation by the Greek Coast Guard.

Only hours after the capsizing of a vessel in the Mediterranean which led to the death of at least 78 migrants, information published by Documento, demonstrates important responsibilities of the Greek authorities.

According to the Greek newspaper, one of the most modern lifeguard boats in Europe, the “Aigaion Pelagos“, was not requested by the Greek coastguard to assist the migrants who were in a state of distress.

According to the location information of the particular lifeguard boat, which is one of the four best and largest lifeboats in Greece and one of the best in Europe, the operations center chose not to include it in the rescue operation, despite the fact that it was at the harbor of Gytheion, very close to the location of the incident.

Specifically, on June 13 at 10:40 p.m., the Coast Guard vessel from Crete sailed near the fishing boat. The Coast Guard vessel remained at a distance and discretely observed the fishing vessel, without detecting any problem in its navigation, as it had a stable course and speed. This process continued according to a statement from the Coast Guard until 01:40 on June 14. At 02:04 am “the captain of the Coast Guard boat informed the Operations Center that he saw the fishing vessel take a right then a sharp left turn and then another right turn which eventually resulted in the vessel capsizing”.

Ten to fifteen minutes later the boat completely sank. According to the statement of the Greek Coast Guard, no order was given by the Operations Center for the rescue boat “Aigaion Pelagos” to assist in the rescue operation of the refugees.

During those events, the state-of-the-art private lifeguard boat “Aigaion Pelagos” was very close to the accident site. According to the tracking platform myshiptracking.com, the “Aigaion Pelagos” was in the port of Gytheion since May 18, 2023. According to the website, the “Aigaion Pelagos” left the port of Gytheio at 00:03 AM on June 14, approximately two hours before the fishing vessel sank. “Aigaion Pelagos” returned at 04:45 AM on June 14, 2023 to the port of Gytheio, where it remains to date.

The same information shows that the “Aigaion Pelagos” at 02:31 AM arrived 7.78 nautical miles west of the area of Archangelos, where it turned off its engines. At 03:51 AM it was 8.27 nautical miles southwest of the area of Plytra, when it departed in the direction of the port of Gytheio, where it arrived as already mentioned at 04:45am.

Migrants obviously in distress

Greek authorities have been reacting to the incident by blaming the migrants themselves.

According to the authorities, when the Coast Guard boats approached the vessel, the migrants refused to be rescued.

Nevertheless, pictures taken by the Coast Guard helicopter, that were published yesterday, show that the people on board were waving their hands towards the helicopter in an obvious call for help.

Also, former officials of the Coast Guard have told Documento that the vessel of the migrants was obviously not seaworthy, as well as overloaded with passengers and lacking safety measures, hence the rescue protocol should have been implemented immediately upon sighting.

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